Originally published by Advance Titan
- Oshkosh, WI
Local Oshkosh band leaves fan screaming with pleasure
By Nicholas Gumm
2005.02.02 -- Sunday night: Oshkosh. The streets are dead except for a few cars passing Peabody’s Ale House.
Inside Peabody’s five guys are setting up their instruments. The bartenders are talking among themselves and a few people are already fumbling around the bar ready to establish relationships that will suffice for the duration of the night.
Once it hits 9:30 p.m. the five guys begin a relationship through the conversation of their instruments, each one commenting to the other about past events and hopes for the future just like the people who have begun to file into the bar.
The snare pulses the beat forward and the intensity of the music increases with excitement and laughter from the rock-steady bass and sit-in trombone; Peabody’s has slowly crescendoed to its peak capacity.
The musicians keep cutting through tunes that vary from jazz standards to jazz pieces fused with various musical styles that create a warm and friendly atmosphere that the people welcome even though they are carrying on conversations of their own.
The crowded bar is a beacon of light on the otherwise dark and lonely Main Street, but this flux of people is not unusual for Peabody’s on a Sunday night.
For the past five years, Jazz Orgy has been making Peabody’s the place to be on Sunday through their brand of jazz improvisation.
“Over the years it has turned into a scene,” said Andy Mertens, bassist and vocalist for Jazz Orgy. “It snowballs. The music starts it, but there is also the social aspect to it.”
The various musicians that make up Jazz Orgy have been producing their own take on jazz improvisation since Feb. 2000, while featuring the local talent of the Fox Valley.
“Our intention was to create a jazz ‘jam’ at Peabody’s Ale House that would showcase a different local jazz artist each week, allow for other musicians to join us on stage and provide a consistent caliber of musical entertainment for the community,” said Mark Martin, pianist of Jazz Orgy.
Martin, Mertens and drummer Mark Powers form the backbone of Jazz Orgy, and every Sunday the trio expands its repertoire and reforms its line-up when they invite different musicians to help create music over a three-set performance.
“Each week during the first set, we feature a guest artist to ensure that there will be different instrumentation, musical selections and style,” Martin said. “Then we open up the second set for anyone who would like to bring their instrument to the stage and play along. The third set is a combination of the first two sets, which often results in a six-or-seven piece ensemble at the end of the night, the essence of the Jazz Orgy.”
The improvisation and variety that comes with a rotating cast keeps the music and the experience for the group and the audience fresh and exciting.
“Each week there is something new and different to enjoy,” Martin said. “I guess that’s why the house is still packed after five years... and why there have been — and still are — so many regulars.”
Mertens said that at times the group will enjoy playing certain songs, but when they get sick of a song, they “put it on the shelf.” There is always something crazy happening. It never gets old.”
To find the talent that makes up the ever-changing basic line-up, Jazz Orgy has drawn from those people that show up on a regular basis to “jam,” Martin said.
“But after five years, the friends of the Jazz Orgy have developed into a network of musicians that spans several states. There is a density of talent in the Fox Valley that is frequently overlooked,” Martin added.
This varying group will rip through a series of different and spontaneous musical thoughts and statements in each performance, making it seem as if the group of musicians that make up Jazz Orgy on a given night has been rehearsing for months.
Mertens and Martin both agree that for a jam session to work, an incredible amount of listening must take place.
“Frequently at the Jazz Orgy, the musicians on the stage have never performed together,” Martin said. “In these situations, it’s best to make sure that it doesn’t sound as unrehearsed as it actually is. Listening closely is the best way to avoid a musical disaster.”
Without listening, the improvised banter between instruments, like the conversations throughout Peabody’s, could not take place, but there are times when everything falls together. Mertens said sometimes cosmic alignment and “mind reading” take place. One of the musicians will play a lick no one has ever heard before, and somehow everyone knows how to play it and will all play it back.
Spontaneous moments like “mind reading,” quality musicianship, and a fun, light-hearted mood help Jazz Orgy maintain its popularity, even though jazz music is not staple genre for bar venues.
“Sunday is generally the best day of business, which is odd in this business,” said Wally Melchoir, the owner of Peabody’s Ale House. “There are not many places with a live band on Sunday. People go where it is hot, and they caught on.”
The group’s philosophy about music is to always have fun, said Mertens, and this transfers to the crowd.
“We give. They give back. We give more. They give more back. By the end of the night, the roof blows off the place and the walls crumble under the tyranny of jazz,” Martin said.
Jazz Orgy will be spreading their fun and light-hearted performances and jazz improv to New Mexico and a few spots in the Midwest throughout February. On Feb. 4, Jazz Orgy will begin their tour. Martin said they would be playing The Dark Star Orchestra’s Superbowl party and the “$1.98” show.
Even though Jazz Orgy will be touring in New Mexico, they can still be seen at Peabody’s on Sundays, Paper City Pub on Mondays, and Club Pi on Wednesdays.
The conversations and moments shared on the stage by the members of the group have come to define Jazz Orgy performances wherever they perform. These emotional and light-hearted moments are not only anticipated by fans the but also the group.
“The Jazz Orgy on Sunday nights at Peabody’s was once described to me as church, and you’re one of the preachers,” Martin said. “Take it or leave it... but I won’t deny that the Jazz Orgy has been a religious experience for me.”